The Double Fine "Controversy"

Last week Double Fine productions launched an initiative on Kickstarter to raise $400,000 to fund an old school adventure game in the vein of Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango. Publishers were never going to fund such a project, so why not go to the fans instead? Well the rest is history. They surpassed their goal (of which they expected to take the full 33 days to accomplish) in just 1 day and less than a week later have raised almost 2 million dollars. Yes we are indeed going to get a new adventure game from the mind of Tim Schaefer, something I, and clearly many others, have wanted for a good long while. It’s one of those rare occasions where just about everybody seems to be in agreement that this is a great thing.

Well, almost everybody.

I’m writing this rant in response to a few articles I’ve read over the past few days that take a negative approach to all of this, often labeling it as the “Double Fine Controversy”. That alone is baffling as I really don’t see anything about this that could be considered controversial and the fact that some people have called it such is insane. If they turned around and used that money to buy a bigger office or make a military FPS or something then yes, that would be extremely controversial. But this? This is one of the least controversial things I have ever seen.

It’s so simple. They wanted to make a game that nobody would give them money to make. They also aren’t successful enough to fund it themselves. Fans have wanted a new Tim Schaefer headed adventure game for years and years, so they asked the fans to help with its production. That way not only could the game be made, but they could make the game they wanted without having to worry about outside influence from a publisher. They didn’t come out and beg fans for the money and say it was either that or the company would be finished, though apparently that may not have been too far off as there was fear of layoffs due to a canceled project.  They simply said “look guys, we’d love to do this but this could be the only way. What do you think?” And people responded.

But this is the Internet and these are video games so naturally you’re going to get a crop of people who have somehow found a way for this to anger them. I will say that 99% of the Internet seems to think this is a fantastic turn of events. It’s that very vocal 1% however that I want to address.

The most common complaint seems to be the one mentioned above. “That’s so pathetic that they would beg their fans for money. I’ve lost so much respect for them as a company.” I think I already said my piece about this so there’s no real reason to elaborate.

On a similar note however, I have definitely seen more than a few comments along the lines of “I can’t believe people are actually donating their money for this shit” or “It pisses me off that people are supporting this”. My only real question here is why? Why does it bother you so much that people are giving money for something they want? By that rational you could get pissed about practically anything anyone buys ever. It’s fine if you don’t care and don’t want to contribute, but why does it make you angry? If Double Fine had started an initiative to pay for guns to murder children then sure, you can get mad about support towards that but this? I just don’t see it.

This is something that has bothered me countless times before and yes it really can be chalked up to “Well, it is the Internet.” No matter the story and how positive it is, there will always be one person (usually more however) who bitches about it, doesn’t matter the subject. In particular I remember when Relic developer Brian Wood was killed in a car accident a couple of years back, after he swerved the car to take the impact, saving his pregnant wife in the process. It’s a tragic story but if you visit many of the stories about it, you’ll see comments like “Who cares?! This isn’t gaming news!” and the one that really did it for me “It fucking pisses me off that people keep calling him a hero. It was instinct guys, he’s not a hero!” Again what the fuck?! How could it anger you that someone is calling him a hero?! How can you read that story and get so riled up that someone is saying this man is a hero that you have to post about it?! I’m getting sidetracked but my point is, people can find a way to get mad about anything and seem to have chosen to do so here as well.

Anyway, another common complaint I keep seeing in the comments on the Double Fine stories, are people saying “This money could go to charity instead” and fully expect Double Fine to donate all but the $400,000 to charity since it goes above and beyond their original goal. First, I am not railing against charities. I have contributed to a number of charities in the past, of course I’m all for that. I do have issues with this however.

First of all, do I think the additional money should go to charity? In this situation I don’t, simply because that isn’t what people invested their money for. They paid to have an adventure game, and would have every right to get upset should that money not go towards it. Besides Double Fine could never pick a charity that everyone would agree with, so this is not the root to go.

The second, and I’m about to get really really sidetracked here, is that I kind of absolutely hate it when people play the charity guilt card. I can’t help but get a twinge of rage every time someone busts out “Come on that money could have gone to charity.” I’ve had it done to me after I purchased a video game system a few years back. After hearing about my purchase, this person (wouldn’t really call them a friend), rolled their eyes and asked “Don’t you think you could have given that money to charity or something?” I hate this both because there’s no good way to respond to it without sounding like an asshole, and also because it’s the most condescending dick move on the planet. Unless that person only buys the bare essential items they need to survive life and the rest goes straight to charity, they have no right to say anything. It’s tempting to be petty and just keep throwing it back in their face. “Wait you bought a movie ticket and popcorn? You know that could have gone to charity right? Isn’t that how it works?”

As a fan of video games, I of course make some pretty outlandish purchasing decisions and I hate when people feel they can judge it. It’s my money, fuck off. If I decide I want to buy a Virtual Boy on eBay, or donate to a developer to make an adventure game, so long as it’s not putting me in debt, what right do you have to make me feel bad about it? It will more likely make people resent charity (and you of course) and why would you want that?!

Oh and to anyone who is criticizing Double Fine for this because they have had a ton of successful games, this is not so. Just because you have heard of the games does not mean they were successful. Titles like Psychonauts may have a cult following but the average gamer would give you a blank stare if you mentioned it, and Brutal Legend was a flop. Their move into the downloadable space with titles such as Costume Quest and Iron Brigage (formally known as Trenched) has proved more effective, but you still could not qualify Double Fine as a highly successful company. In the sense that they make consistently great and unique titles? Sure. Financially? Not so much.

I think I’ve said my piece really. I just needed to vent because all in all, what is happening with Double Fine should be a fantastic, heart warming story of a developer beating the odds and seeing just how much people care. But you still have people out there complaining and trying to find the negative here. Why can’t we all just agree for once that something is awesome?! If you don’t care then fine, but don’t start throwing around shit about controversies and lame charity guilt trips. And yes, I know we’re all entitled to our opinions, just try not to cram it down people’s throats in the most aggressive and asshole way. Just try and take comfort that the rest of us will be getting a product that we have been waiting a very long time for.